At Upgraded Points, we’ve published hundreds of pieces to millions of readers that help them make decisions on which credit cards are best for their needs.
These pieces include our credit card reviews that feature our “U.P. Rating,” which is a star rating ranging from 0 to 5 stars. We also publish a series of pieces where we rank the top cards for a certain category based on a variety of factors.
To provide full transparency to our readers, here is a look at the methodology we use when it comes to how we score, and rank, the various credit cards we cover on our site.
How We Score Credit Card Reviews
As mentioned, each credit card review piece is given a “U.P. Rating” ranging from 0 to 5 stars that highlight a card’s overall quality.
- 4.5 stars or higher: Best-in-class cards (those we recommend most highly)
- 4 stars: Great cards
- 3.5 stars: Good cards
- 3 stars: Average cards
- < 3 stars: Below average cards
We determine an overall star rating based on a full picture of the card’s value proposition, including these factors: rewards rate, card benefits, rewards program (if applicable), and card fees.
Our Ratings Philosophy
Here are some important items to know when it comes to our ratings:
- Our star ratings are based on a variety of factors that we discuss in further detail further down this page.
- Card ratings are separated by category, i.e. cash-back cards and travel rewards cards. Further, cards in separate categories are not evaluated against each other.
- Any business or financial interest does not impact the way Upgraded Points reviews credit cards.
- Our ultimate goal is to help aid readers in making decisions about what card would be best suited for their needs based on the value proposition of the cards we review.
The Editorial Team
Upgraded Points content is created and managed by a team of credit card rewards and travel experts. Many of our team members travel over 100,000 miles each year using credit card rewards and have dozens of years of combined experience between them.
Not only does our team spend hours researching and writing the articles we produce, but between us all, we have extensively tested the vast majority of rewards cards on the market.
Our work and writers have been featured in The New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, NBC, and much more. Further, UP gets called upon regularly to comment on the current state of credit cards, their rewards, structure, fees, and where the industry as a whole is heading.
Factors Considered When Ranking Cards
This chart provides an overview of the factors we consider when rating a given credit card, and how those factors might apply to the specific category a card belongs to. Factors that are bolded are given higher consideration for that category than those that are not.
* = if applicable (i.e. a secured card is unlikely to offer a welcome bonus)
Here is a further insight into each factor we consider when rating credit cards.
Most rewards cards offer benefits that add extra value to the card. These benefits can make your travel more comfortable, save you money, and provide consumer protections. Some of these benefits include airport lounge access, statement credits, elite-style hotel and airline benefits or status, travel insurance protections, and purchase protections are examples of card perks we look for.
Earning rewards is the name of the game. So we seek out cards that offer bonus categories that provide for accelerated earnings. We also take into account that some bonus categories are better suited for some, but not others. For instance, some might prefer a card that rewards supermarket purchases, while others prefer to have flat-rate earnings on all purchases.
A card’s welcome bonus allows you to earn a large number of rewards fast, and jump-start your point balance. Welcome bonuses can be quite lucrative for travelers, as some offer over $1,000 in value. Due to this, welcome bonuses do play a role when we select a travel rewards card to recommend.
We will always provide you with the most current welcome bonus information available to us for each card we cover on the site, but we also encourage readers to review any earnings offers before applying for any card.
Great rewards cards do not come cheap, unfortunately. In fact, card annual fees can range anywhere from $95 to $695. Given that, we keep the fees you’ll pay as a primary consideration in our minds to make certain that the benefits that the card offers allow you to easily offset the fee that you pay.
Redemption Value/Loyalty Program
When it comes to redeeming your rewards, we rank cards highest that offer flexible redemption options and/or offer a strong loyalty program. In our view, the best rewards cards provide you with multiple redemption options, like the ability to redeem points directly for travel, towards statement credits, or offer transfer partners that allow you to receive increased value for your points.
Balance Transfer Offer
The prime consideration for a balance transfer offer is the time frame the introductory offer lasts, along with the APR. In which case, we value these cards based on how much they’d be able to save cardholders that are moving a balance onto them to pay down.
Naturally, a card APR is always a consideration, especially for balance transfers cards and secured cards. However, we highly recommend paying your balance off in full each and every month, which effectively negates the APR entirely, as those who do so will never be charged any interest.
Credit Building Features
For cards that are designed to help people build their credit, we look for card features that help them accomplish that. This includes features like credit monitoring, payment reminders, late payment forgiveness, and more.